ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bob Wills and Western Swing Music With Bands

Updated on February 10, 2015

Bob Wills


Bob Will


Bob Wills

Although Bob Will was only one of many musicians who played in the genre of Western Swing, he is by far the name most associated with it. Wills was born March 6, 1905 and lived till May 13, 1975. His full name was James Robert Wills. He originally lived near Kosse, Texas. Music authorities consider him one of the fathers of western swing. His fans called him the “King of western Swing.”

(Bob Wills)

Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone.
Where in dreams I live with a memory,
Beneath the stars all alone.

For a long time the song San Antonio Rose stuck in my mind . I liked it but didn’t know where it came from. I thought it was probably Gene Autry and I believe he had recorded it but I finally found that it originated with Bob Wills.

Wills father, John Tomkins Wills, was a statewide champion fiddle player. The families raised cotton but were also involved in music. Young Bob picked cotton but was also taught fiddle playing and mandolin. His sister and brothers played musical instruments. There home was host to country-dances. They also played. “Ranch Dances” which were popular in Texas and New Mexico.

Wills learned traditional music from his family and songs from the African Americans in the cotton fields near Lakeview, Texas. They were his playmates when he was young and he learned to dance jigs with them.

The young Wills for several years drifted from town to town to find work. often hopping freight trains. When he was in his 20’s he went to barber school and got married. He returned to Hall County, Texas where his family had moved in 1913. He worked as a barber there in Hamm’s Barber Shop. He continued playing fiddle music. In 1929 he moved to Fort Worth where he played in minstrel and medicine shows. He wore “blackface” makeup for comedy routines, played fiddle and sang. He was also said to “do an amazing jig dance” according to Wikipedia. His daughter, Rosetta said “he had a lot of respect for the musicians and music of his black friends.” She said that he was such a fan of Bessie Smith he rode 50 miles on horseback to see her perform.

Western Swing

Western Swing began in the 1920’s In the American Southwest among the string bands of the region. Its up-tempo dance music which combines rural, cowboy, polka, folk, New Orleans jazz, or Dixieland and blues with a jazzy “swing.” Usually the band was hot with string instruments and drums, saxophones, pianos and steel guitar. It was an outgrowth of the Jazz that was also popular at that time. I think it filled a gap at the time for the demand for dance music. It is much like rock and roll or rockabilly music did much the same as  in 20 years later. I am not much of a dancer, but I was rather baffled in the 1960’s when the folk revival seemed to virtually ignore the vast heritage of folk dances and only play ”singing” music. They pretty much left dancing to the rockers.

Wills and his   “Playboys” had relocated to Waco, Texas where he was popular enough that he decided to look for bigger markets. In 1934 he went to Oklahoma City He renamed the  his band as the Texas Playboys and began broadcasting over KVOO radio station which was 50,000 watts on a noontime show. They also played dances He added horn and reed players as well as drums He later added Leon McAuliffe, a steel guitar whiz. Wills sang blues and sentimental ballads. His style was supplemented by wisecracks and improvision.  His “New San Antonio Rose” sold a million copies and became their signature song.

After 1950 Western Swing lost a lot of its popularity and Wills did not fit the categories of Nashville or pop music. Despite that he could draw large crowds up through 1957. He claimed that Rock and Roll was not much different than what they were playing all along.

At his death of pneumonia in 1975 Time magazine  said “Wills turned out dance tunes that are now called country rock…”

Many performers have been influence by Wills, such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and led to the “Bakersfield Sound.” Willie Nelson was  a big fan. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In addition to his recording career he appeared in several movies.

In 1969 Asleep at the Wheel was formed as a revival band of Country Swing to continue thetradition.

© 2010 Don A. Hoglund


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • KF Raizor profile image

      KF Raizor 

      7 years ago

      "Bob Wills is still the king" as Waylon Jennings said. I loved imitating Bob Wills' "ah-ha!" when I was a kid. Thanks for a great tribute to an extraordinary performer.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I hope you like his music.I appreciate the comment.

    • BobbiRant profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      I'm not familiar with this singer but plan to look him up. This was a nice tribute to him though. Great write.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for the comment. I think you are right. I found it interesting that some people like Bill Haley started out with Western Swing.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Great tribute to one of the Texas legends. He was a forerunner of many of the country and rock stylings of today.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)